Sharks Face Ducks Without Joe Thornton

Irony can be a beautiful thing sometimes, especially in pro sports. When San Jose's point leader and team captain Joe Thornton was suspended following an illegal hit against the St. Louis Blues, the Sharks came right back and administered a systematic beatdown of the Tampa Bay Lightning, breaking a two-game scoreless streak in shutout losses to the Blues and Wild. To summarize, the Sharks get shutout twice, lose their points leader, then drop five on a pretty good Lightning team.

The great thing about irony is the continuity of such things, even the surreal is still pretty darn surreal when you see it happen again. If you walk outside your home and see a man cartwheeling nude down the middle of the road, it would be a rather surreal happening; if you walked outside the next day, you might be just as surprised that, not only did this just happen, it just happened twice.

We're not dealing with such intense levels of ironic surrealism, after all, a team with Patrick Marleau and Dany Heatley working to put the puck in net can be expected to succeed to an extent in doing so. Marleau picked up two goals, the first of which being the first for the Sharks in 156 minutes and 59 seconds. The aforementioned Heatley put up a goal of his own to tie Thornton for team-lead in points. Antero Niittymaki made thirty-three saves in the win.

So, perhaps hanging five isn't all that ironic, it's something the Sharks have had a propensity for this year, just not on any viable plane of consistency. The point is that losing Thornton should have had a bigger impact, but it just didn't. Maybe it can keep ... not having an impact.

Niittymaki should be in net again for the Sharks, but who knows at this point? He is 1-0-1 with a 1.44 goals-against average versus the Ducks, and picked up the one win just a couple weeks ago when the Sharks won 5-2 and he stopped 22-of-24 shots on goal. Heatley picked up two goals and an assist in the win. The Sharks have won seven of their last eight against the Ducks, with four straight.

The Ducks carry a bit of momentum coming into this matchup, sweeping a three-game homstand and winning their first back-to-back games of the season, after a loss to, none other than, the Sharks. Seems the drubbing San Jose gave them lit a fire under 'em, and it'll be up to the Sharks to knock them back down to the ice ... just not with an "illegal," hit, warns Jumbo.

Jonas Hiller should be in goal for the Ducks tonight after being given the night off in the previous matchup. He's 2-8-0 with a 2.44 GAA in his career versus San Jose. They're coming off a win that was sealed with only 1.7 seconds left in the third period when Paul Mara chipped in a Bobby Ryan pass. The Ducks blew four one-goal leads in the game.

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